OUR BOOK OF THANKSGIVING
(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)
RECENTLY, I was rummaging through one of my many boxes of books trying to find my volume of Shakespeare that contained “Romeo and Juliet.” S has been reading this play in her English class. This is her first exposure to Shakespeare and I have been helping her through the “thees” and “thous” and “what-have-yous.”
It is quite an effort to dig out books at times. Our apartment is so small that there is just not enough room for all the shelves that I would need to hold my books. Therefore, only my very favorite books are out, some on a small shelf in my room, some on the night stand, some under the night stand, a few piled on the desk, some under the desk. You get the picture. All the rest of my books are packed in boxes and stored either in the attic or in S’s closet.
Well Hamlet and Othello were in the attic. But Romeo and Juliet were not. So they had to be hiding in S’s closet. No wonder the poor girl gets spooked in the middle of the night sometimes!
I started pulling boxes out of the closet. How many titles got me sidetracked! There were science fiction works calling me to fantastic adventures in far off lands. Many biographies announced the names of their admirable characters. The theological volumes requested my attention in dignified manner.
WHILE digging through the third or fourth box, S exclaimed, “There’s our book!” “Romeo and Juliet? Where??” “No, no. There’s our ‘Book of Thanksgiving!'”
In an instant my emotions ranged from the feeling one gets upon seeing a dear old friend to the creepy sensation of seeing a ghost! In my hands was something which had been a bonding instrument for our family four years and more ago. It was a bittersweet find, a reminder of peaceful days. Yet it carried with it the harsh reminder of a family that has been torn apart. I could nearly hear our past voices echo forth from its pages: the laughter of children, the warmth of family prayer, the barking of the dog, the hush of affectionate approval. As I opened the book, I was as a long-stricken amnesia patient finally awaking to the realization of his self-identity. I was like a “self-stranger” who was just introduced to the person that I instantly recognized as my true self.
NOW let me explain. Our “Book of Thanksgiving” is a small, hardbound journal in which we wrote short sentences of things for which we were thankful. I do not remember now where I got the idea for such a thing. But X.2 (while she was still Wife.2) and I shared a concern to teach good values to our children and to instruct them in things concerning God. We wanted this to be a practical, real life sort of learning. So we would often read the Bible with the children, allowing time for questions and discussions. We would sometimes have the children memorize portions of Scripture. We ourselves, along with the children, also learned much of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Very often we would sing hymns together. Each of us would take turns picking out a hymn and we would all sing. There were certain favorites of the children, which we sang over and over, and over again! All of these things were good and positive aspects of our family. To keep an informal account of our thanksgivings was one more positive means of helping us all to focus on the things that are really important in life.
Here, let me show you some of our entries. I will even leave the children’s spelling just as they wrote it.
10/06/1995 – I am thankful for my family. -S
10/06/1995 – I am thankful for God. -J
10/06/1995 – I am thankful for my family and my house and my friends. – T
10/09/1995 – I am thankful for good oral surgeons! – Dad
10/11/1995 – I am thankful for my brother. -J
10/11/1995 – I am thankful for my pets. -T
10/18/1995 – I am thankful for the Bible and food. I’m thankful for my “parenets” and my cats and rabbits. -S
10/25/1995 – I am thankful for the whole world. -J
11/26/1995 – I am thankful for the pretty day God gave us. -S
01/03/1996 – I am thankful that we can “selebrate” Christmas. -T
01/09/1996 – I am thankful that God kept us safe through the recent blizzard. -Dad
01/31/1996 – I am thankful for bananas. -Dad
02/01/1996 – I am thankful for H and that the new baby is coming. -S
02/01/1996 – I am thankful for myself. -T
02/04/1996 – I am thankful for my dad because he is sick. -J
02/19/1996 – I am thankful that M’s jaundice is getting better. -Dad
02/23/1996 – I am thankful that I got an A on my math test. -T
05/06/1996 – I am thankful for my hands because we need them to help us work, pick up stuff, so on… -S
05/28/1996 – I am thankful for my new baby sister. -T
07/19/1996 – I am thankful that I did not die on the roller coaster at Great Adventure today. -Dad
As you see, I have not quoted any of X.2’s entries. They are so many points of paradox to me. How does one move from light to darkness, from sweet to sour, from peace to anger, from thanksgiving to ingratitude, so quickly, completely, and unashamedly? I will never understand it and have concluded that it is an exercise in futility to expend my energies any longer in trying to do so.
I AM happy to say that this little “Book of Thanksgiving” has been returned to its position of usefulness in the Snyder home. You see, S suggested that we start using it again. As she flipped through its old pages and read aloud from many entries, I could tell that an old note was being struck within her heart, a note that has not been sounded in very recent days. I made the protest that I really did not want to have to view X.2’s entries all the time if we started using the book again. I suggested that we purchase a new journal and start fresh. But with a tone in her voice as if she were protecting an old friend, S insisted that we use this very same book. How often does a 14-year-old American girl have such a strong desire to instate such a noble habit as giving thanks to God among her family? Rather than lose the opportunity to promote such a positive exercise, I agreed to use our original “Book of Thanksgiving,” under the condition that we simply leave a blank page after the old entries. S agreed and said that the blank page would represent “The Wonder Years” – people will see the blank page and “wonder” what happened to those years!
I gave the honor of making a new entry to S. She asked me not to read it in front of her. When I read it later I found that she gave thanks for her boyfriend of so many months, days, hours, as well as thanks for her mom. What else was I expecting from a 14-year-old American girl??
IF YOU ever visit our home, please be sure to browse our “Book of Thanksgiving.” It is right on top of the fridge! We will be honored if you will make an entry of your own!
Now I think it is time to close this entry and this day. I think a few words of thanksgiving need to be written in our book before I sleep this night. I am thinking of something along the lines of, “Dear Father, I thank you for Your faithfulness through all these years and I thank you for my children – especially for S at this time.”